Archives for the Month of March, 2009

Investor in People

‘Tis the Season to be Jolly

One of the best ways to learn is from people, irrespective of their age, level of proficiency, interests and habits. What better way to do that than to attend conferences?

I’m really excited about my visit to Geneva next week for 5 reasons:

  • It’s the first ever XP Day Switzerland!
  • It’s my first time to visit Switzerland!
  • Pascal and I are co-presenting our first session together in 2009 (and it’s always a guaranteed and healthy balance of hardwork, nervousness, fun and lots of laughter)!
  • We are presenting a brand new session titled ‘Les Cinq premiers pas pour devenir vraiment agile‘ (‘The First Five Steps towards Becoming Really Agile’) where we’ll be sharing the 5 most useful and effective tools we use as Agile Coaches!
  • We’ll be presenting in French!

Does it get better than this? Well, yes it does. The reason we continue to present at Agile conferences is because it allows us to better understand what being agile really means, to others and for ourselves. And why is being agile important? Because it enables us to better respond to change and deliver more value.

Survival of the Fittest

To many the recession is turning into the ultimate nightmare, especially for those who know they don’t know but don’t care enough to improve. To others, the recession is a gift. A chance to challenge our personal and professional beliefs and effectiveness based on how well we weather the storm. It’s true you don’t know what you don’t know, but that’s okay so long as you continue to learn and change for the better.

Fact: Time is our most valuable asset. Everyone has time. How will you choose to squander or invest yours?

Bowling Agile

This weekend kicked off with a fabulous night out with one of the most memorable teams I’ve had the good fortune to be part of. They’re memorable because they were the first delivery team to undergo Agile Enablement in a large organisation. I’m sure you can imagine the pressure and weight of expectation they had to shoulder. Being pioneers is never easy. This team is living proof that focusing on the people aspect in any team gives teams a chance to flourish.

Try, Catch, Finally

The evening began with a game of bowling in two teams of four, followed by seeing Bolt in 3D and a tasty dinner. To the surprise of many, those who rarely bowled did very well for bowling newbies. Of course, that may well have been beginner’s luck.

Nonetheless, it reminded me of how true apprentices (folks who really want to give things a go and do so with an open mind) find it easier to adapt than experts because they find it easier to leave preconceptions and ego behind in order to move forward.

Like Agile, for me learning is an incremental and iterative process:

  1. Listen first.
  2. Ask questions.
  3. Listen some more.
  4. Question some more.
  5. Ask for feedback.
  6. Listen for feedback.
  7. Act on feedback.

Playing for Change

Thanks to Neeraj, Sudhakar, Nitin, Murali, Genevieve, Nick, Robin for making it such a F-U-N Friday night! And a special thanks to Leslie for sponsoring our night out!

Girl Geek Jam

Boy Geek: What’s it like being a Girl Geek?
P.: What’s it like being a Boy Geek?
Boy Geek: And what’s this I hear about free dinners?
P.: Girl Geeks Dinners isn’t just for girls and it’s not always dinner.

Tea and Scones

One of the nicer things about tradition is the opportunity of shared experiences. More than 100 of us ‘Girl Geeks‘ spent last Saturday afternoon practicing a spot of social networking over tea and beautiful fondant fancies in the civilised setting of The Berkeley Hotel.

This unusual and elaborate event is a testament to how far IT has developed in the past decade. As IT becomes more prevalent and prominent in our everyday lives, so does its reach, turning it into a kind of utility service that powers our lives both inside and outside of work.

For me, Girl Geek Dinners offers an alternative dimension to social networking among an IT crowd. Their events always have an interesting slant to them, such as sponsored onsite dinners at Google, Microsoft and Skype, covering a range of topics from personal development to career progression. And what makes the events stand out most is the diversity of the crowd they attract. The creative variety that goes into each event is a reflection of the effectiveness of the organic networks that Girl Geek Dinners strive to seed and grow.

First Contact

Thanks to Girl Geek Dinners Paris, Girl Geek Dinners Brussels and Girl Geek Dinners London for their concerted effort in partnership with Eurostar for making the event happen.

Special thanks goes to Fabienne Gyselinck and Anne-Lorène Ganet from Eurostar and Judith Lewis from GGLondon and Clo Willaerts from GGBrussels.  May it be the first cross-channel event of many!

Agility Inside and Out

M.: I hear what you’re saying about Agile Coaching and people.
P.: (Nods and smiles)
M.: The two words that stick in my mind most are ‘Party’ and ‘Fun’. Count me in!
P.: It’s easy if you try. The trick is to really try.

How do you do that?

Since joining Exoftware back in January 2008, it feels as though I’ve had a personal and professional vitamin boost of unexpected tales and adventures, rarely associated with work. Last week’s 2-day get-together at Exoftware was no exception.

A Company of Friends

At Exoftware, we work together and we play together. Last Thursday was spent on strategic thinking and signing up for tasks about a range of topics, including elaborating on the different ways in which we deliver value to our clients. The hard day’s work was followed by conversations over dinner about aerobics, Disneyland and the global economic crisis.

The best was yet to come

The highlight has to be the Go-Kart racing at The Raceway in Charlton. After a 5-minute safety video on how not to press down the accelerator pedal (on the right) and the brake (on the left) at the same time (as this causes the kart engine to burn out), we got into position based on our time trial results.

As we each whizzed, buzzed, burnt and pootled around the circuit, I was struck by the significance of the coloured flag system, with the Blue Flag meaning ‘Let the person behind you pass’. It reminded me how each person’s race time is down to individual performance and that if we’re to all have fun, we have to let people pass.

My 5 Whys for Working at Exoftware

  • I’m trusted to do the best I can.
  • I get help whenever I ask for it.
  • We share moments of joy and pain together.
  • We strive to apply the Agile Values and Practices to everything we do.
  • We learn as a company.

Does your company learn? If so, do they learn fast enough?

Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind

Open a window. Better still, nip outside and look up at the sky. Take a gulp of the fresh Spring air. Then another. And one more.

The 3-Step Spring Workout to fuel Indefatiguable Cheer

  1. Find an open space, a nearby park (or a cemetery at a push) or the riverside.
  2. Treat yourself to a tasty sandwich.
  3. Sit outside for lunch.
  4. Enjoy every moment of it.
  5. Go for a 15-minute brisk walk before returning to the office.

Just do it. No one else can stop you from having a Happy Monday. Only you can.

On Becoming Better

K.: Don’t you find the Agile Values patronising?
P.: Why do you ask?
K.: It’s basic stuff. Like things we learnt back in kindergarten.
P.: Do you always follow the Agile Values?
K.: At work. Mostly. I guess I don’t always succeed.

Growing up to be better

The thing I enjoy most about Agile is that it’s an approach founded on People, Continuous Improvement, and Common Sense.

Cast your mind back to your teenage years. Think about your teenage children. Look at those around you at work. Can you spot those who continue to do things exactly the same way they’ve always done it for the past twenty, thirty, forty years? Can you catch yourself doing this?

Growing pains are never pleasant or easy to endure. Especially when you’re an adult who believes you already know it all. Worse still, an adult who knows best and think everyone else desperately needs to change, but not you.

Find the fish in the sea

According to Marshall Goldsmith, the simplest step towards Continuous Improvement is to find one of your trickier customers. This may be a particularly demanding client or a disgruntled spouse or offspring. Ask them this question: ‘How can I be a better [supplier/partner/parent]*?’ Next, identify together an action you’re prepared to take to improve. Be sure that the acceptance criteria has been clearly defined so that both parties will recognise when the improvement has been accomplished (aka Done). Then, set to work and make it happen. Ask again for feedback to verify for positive change. Finally, rinse and repeat.

Just as there’s always plenty of work out there for folks who deliver value, there’s always plenty of room for improvement. For each and everyone of us. You included.

* Delete as appropriate

Brand You

‘Make things new’ - Ezra Pound

Shukurriya. Wakiwanee. Kihineh?*

What makes a great brand? And why should you care? According to Tom Peters, it’s all about Brand You. You are your own brand. You are your own product. It doesn’t matter that you consider yourself as just an employee. Think of yourself as You Inc. You Unlimited.

Brand You is made up of your values, your knowledge, your experience and your achievements. Brand You is also your word (or not – in any case, you may be able to fool some of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of time). The success of your product depends on it.

Here are my top 5 acceptance criteria for building Brand You:

  • Know what you value
  • Know your target audience
  • Be credible in what you do
  • Have a proven track record of achievements
  • Say what you do and do what you say.

This is all just common sense, of course. The magic happens when you add in the secret ingredient: Insight. Take a good look at the familiar to gain a deeper understanding of who you are and what you stand for.

* Phonetic Maldivian for ‘Thank You’, ‘Goodbye’ and ‘How are you?’